11 Марта 2011 года

Glasnost Defence Foundation Digest No. 514

March 9, 2011



Markelov-Baburova murder trial continues in Moscow

Hearings were resumed in the Moscow City Court February 28 of the case of Nikita Tikhonov and Yevgenia Khasis, the suspected killers of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova in Moscow on January 19, 2009.

Tikhonov, who is charged with shooting and killing the lawyer and the lady journalist, said he had made his prior confessions under pressure from the investigators and in exchange for their promises that Khasis would be released. The court then heard testimony by a woman eyewitness who identified Tikhonov as the killer. However, she could not identify Khasis as his accomplice, according to the Legal and Judicial Information Agency.

Novaya Gazeta deputy editor-in-chief Sergey Sokolov, who testified on the following day, said Markelov had told him shortly before his death that he had repeatedly received threats in connection with his involvement in the investigation of the killing of anti-fascist movement activist Aleksandr Ryukhin. And Novaya Gazeta correspondent Aleksandr Litinsky told the court Markelov had anticipated attacks by radicals, so a team of bodyguards had been assigned to protect him during news conferences.

Meanwhile, the defence continued trying to drag out the trial, or maybe even wreck it altogether. On March 2, Tikhonov’s defence lawyer Aleksandr Vassilyev said that prosecutors had talked to the jury foreman as a witness was being questioned, and demanded that the “guilty” person be excluded from the jury for his breach of law. But the foreman and the prosecution contended there had been no mixing between them. As a result, the defence lawyer’s motion was turned down.

On the same day, journalist Ilya Donskikh confirmed that Markelov had received threats.

The questioning of witnesses continued on March 3. One eyewitness, traffic police officer Alexei Chereshnik, said as he walked towards the metro, he had heard three shots fired and seen a young man tossing some object into his coat pocket and starting towards the metro station. The killer had been wearing black boots, a dark jacket and cap, with a scarf hiding half of his face. “He ran past the man and the woman, crossed the street and disappeared,” the officer was cited by Newsru.com as saying. Another witness, Aleksandr Popov, identified Y. Khasis as the “distinguished-looking” woman he had seen at the scene of the crime minutes before the killing.

Then, as had been expected by many, Khasis’ defence lawyer M. Korotkov-Gulyayev was expelled from the courtroom for repeated breaches of the rules of procedure of a jury trial. He had got six reprimands from the judge by that time, so his expulsion was in full compliance with the law.

After it turned out during the hearings that nationalists had posted the home address of Judge Aleksandr Zamashnyuk on a rightist website, Praviye Novosti, with a photo picture of his house, Moscow City Court Anna Usachova said bodyguards had been assigned to protect the judge. “We take all the necessary precautions each time a judge’s physical integrity is endangered,” she said.



Perm Region. Governor seeks control over media

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

Perm Region Governor Oleg Chirkunov has repeatedly been heard saying at news conferences that he doesn’t read any newspapers at all. Media reporters were perplexed by those otherwise shameful revelations, not knowing whether to feel sorry for the governor’s lack of interest in the life of the region he is in charge of, or to hail his reluctance to meddle in media affairs by dictating what to write about, or how, or by voicing his dissatisfaction with some or other editor’s performance.

While distancing himself from the press, Governor Chirkunov has nevertheless taken steps to build up his public image as the regional head. He is an active blogger writing about various facts of his life, like lectures he delivered in Moscow, or the number of takeoffs and landings during his air flights abroad (to see his wife who lives in Switzerland), or his breaches of the rules of the road (due to his busy work schedule), or documents he failed to sign in due time…

Meanwhile, his press service has taken pains to portray Chirkunov as a regional leader who really has his hands full. He is often shown on TV tirelessly walking highways with a ruler in hand, advertising local potatoes, awarding prizes, scolding ill-performing officials, delivering jubilee addresses, etc., i.e., doing every kind of thing a good leader is supposed to do.

The problem is, however, that all of his public appearances of the past few years have only been image-building or didactic as far as their purpose is concerned. I have preserved a copy of a newspaper report about a public event during which “People were listening (to the governor) with their mouths wide open” (sic!).

The local press never features Chirkunov’s comments on the most important economic or social processes he initiated, or the agricultural and healthcare reforms he messed up... For more than three years, the Perm leader turned a deaf ear to the questions asked by independent regional media. Nor did he ever meet with reporters for less independent but still fairly popular local newspapers.

A short while ago, either having grown aware of his full isolation from the dialogue-thirsty public, or else on instructions from above, the governor finally met with a group of editors and journalists – with those he had selected himself. For the first time in many years, the group included representatives of some “less loyal” media outlets. “We think it important that people understand us well,” he told the conferees, promising a series of new meetings “to give you some important insights” but suggesting that he would first “check how accurately you quote the things I say”.

One is left to guess if the Perm governor will start reading the newspapers after all, now that he intends to check the content of media reports prior to publishing.


Voronezh Region. Utility service providers at law with media

By Roman Zholud,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

February saw a whole five honour, dignity and business reputation protection claims lodged against Voronezh-based media by various utility service providers, showing a deliberate campaign may be underway to put pressure on the journalists.

The regional newspaper Molodoy Kommunar and its author Oksana Gribkova are defending against a claim filed by a utility services company from the Levoberezhny District of Voronezh that wants a “libellous” article of January 18 to be refuted. Specifically, it objects to the passage that says, “The Levoberezhny District communal property management company […] kept – for several months! – sending the tenants of 40 apartment houses utility service bills while not providing any services at all.”

In the town of Novovoronezh, Household Management Company No. 3 lodged three (sic!) similar claims at once. One was against the regional newspaper Voronezhsky Courier that had featured Andrei Tsvetkov’s story that said, in part, “Last year, having gone through different judicial channels, a group of local activists succeeded in proving that their apartment blocks had been wrongfully assigned for management to Company No. 3 which turned out to have multimillion debts”, and “They proved in court that signatures of tenants who had allegedly voted by absentee ballots for that company had been forged.”

Its second claim was filed against the municipal Cable TV Company for showing a January 13 “smearing” interview with Novovoronezh Mayor S. Mozgov who will now have to pose as a co-defendant.

And the third claim was against the same Cable TV Company as the founder of the newspaper Moy Gorod that had featured Olga Kubyshkina’s article of January 12 entitled “Who and Why Needs Our Signatures”. The group of co-defendants includes the town administration, Duma, and Press and Media Affairs Department, and the private persons referred to in the publication as sources.

Finally, a similar claim was lodged against Cable TV by Urban Development Ltd. The plaintiff wants an official refutation of information voiced in a December 1 televised interview with the town mayor.

All the five legal claims were filed with the regional court of arbitration. The plaintiffs demand official refutations and the reimbursement of the state fee charged on them (RUR 4,000 per claim), but no moral or material damage compensation.

Significantly enough, all the plaintiffs are members of the Voronezh Communal Chamber, an association of utility service providers that is busy re-dividing the regional communal services market. The fact that all the five claims were written according to one template (each reproducing one and the same misprint) signals that this is no coincidence but a deliberate campaign of pressure on the journalists.

The defendants’ interests are represented in court by lawyer Anastasia Vostrikova of the Media Rights Defence Centre.


Chelyabinsk. Independent website attacked by hackers

On the night of March 1, unidentified hackers destroyed the website Irinagundareva.com launched by Chelyabinsk-based journalist Irina Gundareva earlier this year.

According to Gundareva, the website had operated in the business-as-usual manner until after midnight but was liquidated towards the morning, with all information posted over the previous week erased.

“I can’t think why they would want to kill a website only because it offered people the opportunity to express opinions differing from the official one,” Gundareva commented.

She also said she intends to fully restore her website postings using another web server.

[Mega-u.ru news agency report, March 1]


Kostroma Region. Strange visit paid to TV company

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

In the town of Bui, Kostroma Region, the office of the local television company Bui-TV was visited March 2 by regional administration official D. Belov and mayoral advisor P. Gostev. The guests declined to show their IDs but said the purpose of the visit was “to check the condition of the territory adjacent to the company premises”.

After a company cameraman started recording the proceedings, the visitors demanded that he switch his camera off, which he declined to do. The “inspectors” then tried to break the camera, shouting and calling the cameraman bad names, the Kostromskiye Novosti website reported.

The website also noted that P. Gostev turned out to be an army colonel acting as a public advisor to the Bui mayor. Adding to the intrigue, his companion’s name was not found on the staff list of the Kostroma Region administration.

The company management considers suing Gostev for attacking its staff cameraman.


Maritime Region. Regional court confirms sacked editor’s reinstatement

Continued from Digest 505

By Anna Seleznyova,
GDF staff correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The Shkotovsky District administration in the Maritime Region has made more attempts to get Larissa Layd, editor-in-chief of the local newspaper Vzmorye, replaced.

For the second time already, the regional court of appeals recently cancelled the administration orders on firing the long-time district newspaper editor in violation of the law, and turned down its two protests against court rulings reinstating Layd in her former position.

Editor sackings, non-payment of wages to editorial staff, default on payments for the circulation of official information, attempts to freeze newspaper operation, breaches of effective legislation, and full dependence of district newspapers on the will and mood of local administrations as their founders – all those malpractices are quite typical of the situation in which most local newspapers are finding themselves today. One may as well recall the replacement of Anatoly Tabachkov, the long-time editor of the municipal newspaper Nakhodkinsky Rabochiy in Nakhodka, and of other local media editors; the scandalous sacking of Sergey Bulakh, editor of the newspaper Vladivostok; the replacement of journalist Dmitry Kashirin as head of the Far Eastern Publishing Company, etc. The number of such cases has been growing, and by far not all of those affected have had the courage to sue district rulers for their wrongful actions.


Republic of Karelia. Open tender held behind closed doors

By Anatoly Tsygankov,
GDF staff correspondent in North-Western Federal District

When announcing tenders for the purchase of state assets, Karelia’s State Property Fund (SPF) posts relevant ads in the Internet, as required under the law. Last time, it announced the auctioning off of the republican government’s package of shares in the Anokhin Printing Company. The government of Karelia, the owner of 100% of the company stock, intended to receive at least RUR 56.5 m from the sale, while encumbering the would-be owner with a 20-million debt accumulated by the printing house.

Although the company boasts of modern printing equipment, spacious industrial capacities, a large administrative building, and two land plots in Petrozavodsk of more than 12,000 sq m in area, the first round of bidding did not take place. After the second round was announced, everybody looked forward to the auction with intense interest: the Anokhin Company prints the majority of Karelia’s newspapers.

But reporters who came to cover the trading were shocked to learn they would not be let through – and this despite the open status of the tender. Their protests were cut short by SPF representative I. Labutin’s fairly odd argument that if they had wished to attend, they should have got registered as auction participants. Finally, the journalists were compelled to leave not to disrupt the tender’s opening.

Wallpaper Ltd. turned out the highest bidder, paying RUR 57,768,000 for the printing house ownership. Why the press was barred from attending the tender is a mystery that is yet to be disclosed – maybe with the help of the republic’s prosecutor’s office.



Russian journalist detained in Baku

Andrei Lyalin, a reporter for the Russian newspaper Sovetsky Sport, was detained by Azerbaijani defence ministry officers March 1.

“I spent five hours at the defence ministry headquarters while special services were deciding who I looked like most of all – an Armenian spy or a hireling of Dagestani insurgents,” Lyalin said. “A stroll about the city with a photo camera in hand to take pictures of beautiful local nature had cost me this lot of trouble.”

One of the snapshots happened to feature “a strategically important facility”, as Azerbaijani military characterised an ordinary-looking apartment house in one of the central streets of Baku, the journalist said. “Besides, a check-up of documents showed that I’d arrived in Baku from Yerevan, which was anything but a joke. The dragged-out investigation culminated in a search of my hotel room.”

A. Lyalin came to Baku to interview the chief coach of the Baky Football Club.

[Azerisport.com report, March 1]


Human rights defenders visit Arkhangelsk correctional facilities

By Tamara Ovchinnikova,
GDF staff correspondent in North-Western Federal District

A delegation of the St. Petersburg branch of the inter-regional human rights watchdog “Committee for Civil Rights” has visited several correctional facilities in the Arkhangelsk Region to see how the inmates live and whether their rights are duly observed.

One of the delegates said that the situation in the region “is not critical – there are much more problem-laden areas in Russia – but our Committee has been receiving many complaints of late about the way prisoners are treated in Arkhangelsk”.

At a meeting with committee members, regional penitentiary system (UFSIN) commanders heard out the activists’ concerns attentively and acknowledged the relevance of public control over the system’s operation. Some human rights defenders, though, maintain that UFSIN officials should be more tolerant to well-substantiated public criticism.

Whether in connection with the St. Petersburg delegation’s visit to Labour Camp No. 1 in the village of Pirsy or by coincidence, a following-day check-up of the colony management’s performance by the regional prosecutor’s office revealed serious infringements of disabled prisoners’ rights there. It turned out the administration had done nothing for over a year to ensure decent living conditions for that category of inmates, the prosecutor’s office’s press spokesman said, adding that the prison chief had been reprimanded, and disciplinary measures would be taken in respect of those responsible.



Reporters’ Foundation holds international conference

On March 4-6, Warsaw played host to an international conference of investigative journalists from Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Poland. The Glasnost Defence Foundation was represented by our staff correspondent Dmitry Florin.

The conferees discussed major problems facing investigative journalism, with special focus on the North Caucasus, and progress in the investigation of the killings of Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estemirova and other prominent journalists. They pointed to the fact that independent probes into those killings have actually not been attempted. Speakers highlighted a number of problems with the objectiveness and independence of media coverage in that region of Russia, and selected a list of cases to be investigated by international effort.

The conference was organised by the Reporters’ Foundation of Poland, whose head management includes Pawel Rezska, a prominent Polish journalist with a long record of reporting from areas afflicted by warfare, including North Caucasian republics.

The Reporters’ Foundation was established late last year by journalists Roman Daszinski (Gazeta Wyborcza), Wojciech Cesley (Wprost), Michal Majewski (Rzeczpospolita) and Pawel Rezska (Rzeczpospolita). It goal is to provide a venue for East European journalists to meet to share experiences, organise joint investigations, and support young talent.

Saratov Journalists’ Union head re-elected

The Saratov Region branch of the Russian Journalists’ Union held a regular meeting February 28 to hear reports and elect new officials.

The conference brought together 72 delegates from 40 registered grassroots organizations, who positively assessed the Board performance during the period under review and suggested a number of organisational and other improvements. Speakers pointed to the consolidating role the RJU branch plays in the regional journalistic community; noted the high professionalism of training seminars organised for journalists and editors; and praised the Union for actively defending the labour rights of editors and reporters.

Delegates emphasised that the regional branch has contributed in a meaningful way to civil society development in Saratov by initiating public discussions of major social problems and holding more training seminars, round-table conferences and fact-finding trips around the region.

Much has been done to defend freedom of expression and media independence, and gear self-regulating mechanisms within the media community to enable it, in equidistance from political interest-groups, to censure non-professionalism and political engagement.

The regional RJU branch’s public prestige and weight have been growing, delegates said. Its representatives have been elected to the public councils under the regional Duma and Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, and its Board president is a member of the regional Public Chamber.

The conference elected a new composition of the Board, a new Grand Jury chair, and a new Media Disputes Commission head. The Board President, Lydia Zlatogorskaya, was re-elected for the third term.


This Digest has been prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation (GDF).


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ФЗГ продолжает бороться за свое честное имя. Пройдя все необходимые инстанции отечественного правосудия, Фонд обратился в Европейский суд. Для обращения понадобилось вкратце оценить все, что Фонд сделал за 25 лет своего существования. Вот что у нас получилось:
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